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Friday, February 10, 2012
Baseball

Perham landmark to be demolished; Krueger Field in need of major renovation

By John George - Perham, MN

The Grandstand at Perham's Krueger Field will be demolished this spring. (John George photo)

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Mother Nature and Father Time have taken their toll on a Perham landmark.  The grandstand at Perham’s Al Krueger Field has been deemed unsafe, and plans are underway to demolish the structure.

Perham Activities Director Fred Sailer brought together a number of “baseball” people on Jan. 18 to begin discussion on how to handle the situation, and how to move forward.

The grandstand was built as a WPA project in the 1930’s.  Originally, only the center section was covered.  The rest of the grandstand was covered later on. At this time the poles that support the roof have rotted to the point that future repairs defy common sense.  Furthermore, areas of seating support are failing. 

Complicating issues is that there really is no owner for the ballpark. 

“In reality it is owned by the city of Perham and used by the high school, summer recreation, East Ottertail County fair, and numerous community events,” Sailer said in an e-mail to potential supporters.  “The city is not in a position to demolish and rebuild, nor is the fair board or school.”

It was decided by all present at the Jan. 18 meeting that for safety reasons, the grandstand needed to be demolished.

That won’t be as easy as just knocking it down, as there are a lot of electrical concerns regarding the stadium lights to consider before clearing the site.

“It appears that the current wiring configuration is in violation of code and that specific transformers to each pole should be reduced to one transformer,” Sailer noted.  “Otter Tail Power may be able to assist use in advising the best means to resolve this issue.”

Perham City manager Kelsey Klemm agreed to draw up an RFP for demolition of the grand stands with a goal of the end February to have the grand stands razed. 

Discussion quickly turned to “replacing a landmark, with a landmark.”

With a lot of long-time area baseball guys in the room, it was obvious there was some sentiment to what Al Krueger Field represents to area ball players. 

“It’s by far the best place to play in the area,” said Tony Stoll, a long time player and architect at BHH Partners.  Sailer mentioned how the East Grand Forks baseball team requested to play here when they had flood related field issues.

“So much of where I am currently is traced to everything that took place inside that park and outside the white lines,” said Al Hanson, a member of the Perham Pirate 1984 State Class B 3rd place team, currently residing in Eden Prairie.  “I probably will never sit in that park again, but will certainly contribute via donation.”

But, of course, nothing is free.  Although it was made clear that the field, and a grandstand that made the ballpark a Perham landmark, was important to the city, the school, and all those in attendance.

With issues of how things might get paid for set aside momentarily, discussion was held in regard to potential replacement facility.  There was general consensus that seating would be reduced from approximately 700 in the current structure, to 450, with 6-8 rows and the plywood façade replaced with brick.  

“It would be our desire to replace a 75 year landmark with another landmark that will last 75 years,” Sailer said. 

Seating would be steel and a roof would cover the center section.  Seating would be placed on a concrete slab, and a press box would be added to the back row of seats in the center section. 

While this is still in the early stages, estimates of $200,000-$250-000 were expressed.

Three committees were formed from this initial meeting.  All committees will remain open to new members.

Steering Committee: This group would oversee all phases of the process including media, contracting, schedule, budget etc.  Current members include Bob Schepper, John George, and one of three city administrators (Kelsey Klemm, Merle Meece, or Chuck Johnson).

Design and Construction Committee: Tony Stoll and Todd Barney

Fundraising committee: Larry Mollins, Greg Schmid and Fred Sailer.

It was also discussed that in addition to building a new grandstand, other improvements to the ballpark should be considered, such as:  improvements to the infield and bullpens, a “face lift” for the dugouts, and additional storage under the new grandstand.

“We don’t know if this will take 5 months, or 5 years, but it’s something that needs to get done, one way or another,” Sailer said.

In the short-term, getting a new concrete slab as soon as the old grandstand is gone was discussed, and then bringing in temporary bleachers.  A new backstop will have to be among the 1st items on the new construction list.

In recent years, the field has hosted several regional and state tournaments; including the Babe Ruth State Tournament, and the VFW State Tournament.  The field was the home of the 1966 Class 'B' State Champions, and was co-host, along with Wadena, of the 1995 State Amateur Baseball Tournament.  The F-M RedHawks and Concordia Cobbers have also played exhibition games at Krueger Field.  

Team's calling Krueger Field home include:  The Perham Yellowjackets (high school);  the Perham Pirates (Men's Amateur);  the Perham Buzz (American Legion);  the Perham Stingers (VFW);  and the 2011 State Champion Perham Silver Pirates (Senior Men's Amateur).  The Perham Babe Ruth team's also play occasional games at Krueger Field.

 Several fundraising ideas were discussed, but will be gone into with more detail once final cost estimates are completed.  Several grants will be considered, as well as fundraising drives with area businesses and ballplayers.

If you would like more information on the project, or to volunteer or contribute, please contact Fred Sailer at Perham High School, 346-1615, fsailer@perham.k12.mn.us;  or e-mail LakesAreaSports@arvig.net.

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